Saturday, 5 February 2005

Conan on Carson

Inspired by Slate's Surfergirl TV blog, I looked up Conan O'Brien talking about Johnny Carson on Google Video. Here's a partial transcription, with some copyediting amendments:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is our first show back since Johnny Carson passed away last week - news that I think stunned everybody. It's taken a while to process. It's been a week. And it is still pretty huge news to absorb. You know, last week, so much has been said about Johnny Carson, very eloquently and very well, by a lot of people who knew Johnny personally, who were good friends with Johnny, people whose careers were changed - Leno, Letterman - when Johnny Carson took those people under his wing and single handedly made them the performers we know today. So, thinking about it, and because I think we're the last show because of our schedule to be on and probably to comment on this event, it's been hard for me to imagine anything that I could say tonight to people that would in any way add to what's already been said.

I mean, so many superlatives have been used. I don't think there are any left quite honestly. And, you know, I just wanted to say something tonight. Thought about it for a while. And realized that even though I've a had a weird, and, you know, compared to many, short career in television. I did - my path did intersect with Johnny's a couple of times in ways that, I'm sure it meant nothing to Johnny Carson, but were huge to me.

And I thought I would relate to some of those. The first was, I think it was 1992, when Johnny had just gone off the air, signed off as a host of "The Tonight Show". And I was a writer on "The Simpsons". And Johnny Carson agreed to come and do a voice on "The Simpsons". And I heard Johnny Carson was coming. And I was just, you know, I couldn't believe it. It's like hearing, "Yeah, Moses is gonna stop by. He's bringing some tablets with him. They're from God." It's just unbelievable. And we had seen some pretty big stars, but no one came close to Johnny Carson. So he came and - into the recording studio. And he was fantastic. He was everything you'd want him to be. He was funny, he was generous with his time. He signed autographs for us. He talked. He told us great stories.
I know this probably doesn't mean much to the Singaporean part of my audience, because late-night talkshows are a rather alien format here, but I just wish I'd managed to watch more of Johnny. And Conan is in a totally different voice here: not the usual quasi-ironic tone he usually adopts, but a respectful, reverential one. As Surfergirl (aka Dana Stevens aka Liz Penn) notes, he's a worthy candidate for taking over the Tonight Show post, even if it's only in 2009.




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